Stellenbosch FC qualified for the Carling Knockout semi-finals after beating Polokwane City 2-0 in the quarter final on Friday night.
Stellies’ victory at a chilly Old Peter Mokaba Stadium was inspired by early goals from Iqraam Rayners and Devin Titus as they reached their third successive semi-final.
Season in and season out, Stellies have posed danger in the early stages of the cup competitions only to lose their bearings when it mattered the most – in the last two stages.
And that’s why they’ll only have themselves to blame in this tournament if they don't grab matters by the scruff of the neck by at least reaching the final.
Having beaten Chippa United 2-1 away in Gqeberha in the last 16, they, again, made light work of Polokwane in the quarter-final on the road, winning 2-0.
By the first 20 minutes, Steve Barker’s men had all but rendered this match a no contest as they were cruising 2-0 – nullifying the rousing support of the locals.
Jaydin Adams starred in the opener as he breezed through Polokwane’s defence with an interchange between him and Genino Palace before setting up Rayners.
Rayners calmly slotted past the exposed Manuel Sanuga for his first goal of the tournament to enroute to winning his second Man of the Man award in this competition.
While the good fortunes seemed to favour the visitors, Polokwane were suffering more misery as captain Bulelani Nikani was replaced by Koketso Baloyi due to an injury.
Rise and Shine’s leaderless defence was duly punished and exposed as Stellies’ goalkeeper Sage Stephens also got himself an unlikely assist as well.
Deep from his own half, Stephens unleashed a weighted clearance which lobbed Polokwane’s defence and found an unmarked Devin Titus who slotted past Sapunga.
That poor anticipation seemed to all but expose the absence of coach Lehlonolo Seema who was back at home in Lesotho due to a family bereavement.
Rise and Shine tried to the half at least having halved the deficit, but Stellies stood firm in defence, repelling all the danger that came their way.
The two teams continued to change blows early in the first half, but both defensive units stood their ground, including Polokwane’s clearing the ball off the line.
But the notable save came from Stephens who excellently tipped Oswin Appollis’ curling effort into the top corner over the crossbar midway through the half.
Granted that effort didn’t pay dividends, but it seemed to have brought out a fighting spirit from the 22-year-old who was solely driving Rise and Shine’s comeback.
But it wasn’t to be for Appolis as Stellis hung on for the win – though he’ll take positives from his match especially after making Bafana Bafana's preliminary squad for the World Cup qualifiers this month,